Norms of Protection

Responsibility to Protect, Protection of Civilians and their Interaction

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A series of humanitarian tragedies in the 1990s (Somalia, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Kosovo) demonstrated the failure of the international community to protect civilians in the context of complex emergencies. These brought to life two norms of protection – Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and Protection of Civilians (POC) – both deeply rooted in the empathy that human beings have for the suffering of innocent people. Both norms raise concerns of misinterpretation and misuse. They are developing – sometimes in parallel, sometimes diverging and sometimes converging – with varying degrees of institutionalization and acceptance. This book engages in a profound comparative analysis of the norms and aims to serve policy-makers at various levels; practitioners with protective roles; academics and researchers; civil society and R2P and POC advocates.




With intra-state conflict replacing inter-state conflict across the globe (Orchard, 2010: 38), “civilian-based civil wars” (Ferris, 2011) are exposing vulnerable populations to war crimes, ethnic cleansing and acts of genocide. The UN Secretary-General has highlighted the growing threats to women and children caught up in armed conflicts, as well as dangers faced by civilians forced to mix with combatants and armed elements in camps for refugees and the internally displaced. The vulnerability of civilians in conflict has been exacerbated by some governments’ reluctance to accept international assistance and the increasing number of attacks on humanitarian workers and UN staff (UNSG, 1999).


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